Sunday, March 4, 2012

(Another) Fishing Creek

There must be something in a name. Every area has a fishing creek, and every fishing creek I snorkel is full of fish. The Fishing Creek that empties into Long Level on the Susquehanna was no exception.

Kitchen table sized schist slabs were scattered on the bottom where the moving waters of Fishing Creek met the still water of Long Level. I figured I would start my exploration here and ducked under the cold water thinking this would be perfect hellbender habitat. I held onto the remote hope of sighting one. It was definitely a long shot but I never, ever, know what to expect while creek snorkeling. A foot long salamander very well may be hunkered down under one of these slabs, however unlikely.

I thought I would have to search for fish life, as is usually the case in winter time streams, but I was instantly in the midst of a thousand strong school of spot tail shiners, hold up at this confluence of moving and still waters. These are common fish, and non-descript. They don’t have elaborate fins, or brilliant colors. They are easily overlooked, mundane. Their only distinguishing characteristic is a dark spot on their tails, thus the name spot tail shiner. But seeing thousands of these fish shoaled up was nothing short of remarkable. Why were they all here? Were they congregating to spawn? Or were they taking advantage of food flowing into Long Level from Fishing Creek? It was like swimming through a school holding on a reef.

I started to work my way upstream against a strong flow. The architecture is complex and fascinating. Schist is the dominant rock and it is present in both angulated slabs and smoothed ropy bedrock. Makes for interesting scenery and plenty of hiding places for a diversity of aquatic life. A plump green sided darter nestled into a crevasse in the carved bedrock. I wished the early march water temperatures were warmer. I wanted to spend hours more exploring Fishing Creek. But my hands were numb, and I was starting to shiver. I needed to get out of the water. I let the strong current carry me back down stream over bedrock plains and boulder riffles. The spot tail were still congregated, and I’m pretty sure I saw an encrusting freshwater sponge. I am always amazed at what I see in our rivers and streams and I can’t wait to see what swims in fishing creek this summer. Another Fishing Creek certainly didn’t disappoint.

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